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CPA Newsletter #61, Oct 1993

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


October 1993

Number 61

Grants to Support Advocacy and Outreach

The Commission has received two grants totalling $75,000 to help the expansion of its communications program, with a focus on advocacy and outreach initiatives. The grants will enable the Commission to increase involvement with a number of new groups that include library school educators; scholars; regional, state and local officials; and technologists, as well as scholarly constituencies in this country and abroad.

The H. W. Wilson Foundation announced a grant of $25,000 to be expended over an 18-month period in support of new education initiatives targeted to constituencies beyond the library and archives fields, as well as other communication efforts. The Foundation’s initial grant in 1986 was instrumental in supporting activities during the Commission’s early years, and this new funding will build on that investment.

The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation approved a grant of $50,000 to help expand newsletter distribution, exhibit services, and general media advocacy. With this funding the communications program will broaden the spectrum of its mailing list and produce materials to accompany exhibits at scholarly conferences, seminars, and special events. To help launch these efforts, the Commission will develop educational brochures and fact sheets.

Commission to Release New Directory and Annual Report

The Commission’s 1992-1993 Annual Report and a new publication entitled Directory of Information Sources on Scientific Research Related to the Preservation of Sound Recordings, Still and Moving Images and Magnetic Tape, are scheduled for release this month. Both will be distributed to Commission sponsors and mailing lists upon their completion.

The Directory is a comprehensive listing of laboratories and organizations as well as sources of information dealing with the preservation of and access to nonprint media. This 16-page publication highlights the initiatives, programs, and contact information of over 35 entries including databases, serials, monographs and articles, and conference proceedings.

Additional copies of both publications are available while supplies last. The Annual Reports is free, and the Directory is available for $10.00 prepaid. For further information contact Sonny Koerner at the Commission.

Publishers Continuing Support for Preservation and Access

The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., and HarperCollins Publishers have committed support to the Commission by becoming sponsors for a three-year period. Both are members of the Association of American Publishers, of which Commission board member Nicholas Veliotes is president. Sponsors now total 64 and include an array of public and private institutions, with the last four newcomers being from the publishing industry. All sponsors receive expedited mailings of publications, newsletters, and other information. The Commission’s two preservation and access exhibits are made available to sponsors at no charge.

Librarians need suffer no lack of confidence that they can negotiate the transition from paper information to the electronic age

Jerry D. Campbell, University Librarian and Vice Provost for computing at Duke University. Drawn from his remarks at the President’s Program, ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 1993.

From the Commission Board…
German National Library Moves Ahead with Preservation

In this column, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, General Director, Die Deutsche Bibliothek, discusses the collaboration between the German National Library, private industry, and the federal government to produce a state-of-the-art facility and procedure for the deacidification of the human record.

With the unification of Germany in October of 1990, the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig, eastern Germany, and the Deutsche Bibliothek in Frankfurt, western Germany, were merged to form the unified national library now known as Die Deutsche Bibliothek. While the two libraries remain at their original locations, tasks have been distributed between them, and each has developed its own particular areas of strength. One such very important area in Leipzig is the new and unique Zentrum für Bucherhaltung (Center for Book Preservation and Conservation, CBPC). Aside from fulfilling the national library’s legal mandate for the permanent preservation of German-language publications, the CBPC also serves as a center for applied research and development, training, continuing education and consultation.

Activities of the CBPC proceed from the basis of a comprehensive operating concept which takes into account both the criteria of quality and the requirements imposed upon a modern preservation and conservation program by the need to process massive volumes of material. In addition to the restoration of significant individual items by traditional means, other technologies such as paper-splitting and microfilming with high-resolution cameras have been introduced. With regard to the former, a fully mechanized version is to be put into operation in 1993. The new system is capable of processing ten times as much material per unit of time as manual splitting techniques and is thus well suited to the task of mass conservation.

In early 1994, the CBPC is to begin industrial-level mass deacidification of acidic paper for the first time, making it the first large-scale facility in the world that is owned by a library. The result of a cooperative effort with the Battelle Institute in Frankfurt which began in 1987, the facility initially will be able to deacidify and preserve for posterity some 200,000 volumes per year and eventually will expand its capacity to about 400,000 volumes annually. The plant was built at a cost of DM 6.5 million with funds provided by the Federal Ministry of Research and Technology. As described below, the thoroughly tested and refined process not only deacidifies but strengthens paper as well. The physical facility is a modular construction amendable to both expansion and reduction of capacity, depending upon customer requirements. A market introduction plan targeted to subsequent users is currently being drawn up by the developer.

Although the large-scale facility is presently a major focal point of interest, the process itself is an integral part of the total operating plan. Medium-term goals call for the augmentation of current preservation and conservation measures by securing data through conversion to digital media.

In the period since reunification, Die Deutsche Bibliothek has incorporated the essential aspects of preservation and conservation into an overall plan. In this way, it has provided an important innovation for the preservation of our cultural heritage in archives and libraries, lending at the same time support to political initiatives within Europe.

This description is adapted from “The self-destruction of modern papers,” issued by Battelle and Die Deutsche Bibliothek

For the protection of library and archival collections in their original form, Die Deutsche Bibliothek is performing intensive work to develop cost effective new mass preservation techniques. The basic idea of mass deacidification is to subject books and archival documents to a chemical neutralization treatment and hence to render the acids in the paper innoxious. Because of environmental effects (air pollution) and endogenous processes, however, new acids will constantly form in the paper over time. An alkaline buffer is therefore added to neutralize those acids too.

Battelle researchers have been comparing and working on various paper conservation processes since 1987. The project, performed under contract from Die Deutsche Bibliothek, is aimed at developing to maturity the most suitable method. The first facility was put into operation in Frankfurt in 1990. The method used at that time was further improved for the current treatment facility. Design engineers have attributed greatest importance to environmental compatibility. To achieve a “clean” method they developed a new, harmless treating solution and made provisions for recirculating the chemicals and minimizing any residues. The closed circuit ensures that no solvent is released to the outside.

Battelle states that the chemicals are harmless to environment, non-toxic and compatible with all common materials used in books and archivals. The method ensures not only efficient neutralization of the acids in the paper, but also raises the pH value to the alkaline range around 9.0, according to Battelle.

The deacidification treatment comprises three stages: predrying, chemical neutralization, and post-drying. The predrying procedure, which may take up to two days with other methods, has been replaced by vacuum drying. The books are heated using microwave energy. The temperature of the paper is controlled to a maximum of 60°C so that the books and documents are not over-heated and possibly damaged. When predrying is over, the chamber is filled with the alkaline deacidifying solution. The books are completely impregnated within a few minutes. The treatment chamber is then emptied and the excess solution is pumped out. The solvent is evaporated from the books and recovered. The combination of vacuum drying and microwave drying has proved particularly efficient, according to engineers. The treatment is completed within less than two hours.

The efficacy of the new method was examined by exposing the treated papers to high temperatures and considerable air moisture. These ageing tests showed that the treated paper retains its strength practically unchanged for a very long time. This method makes it possible to strengthen the damaged paper while neutralizing the acid, according to Batelle. Depending on what kind of paper is treated, strength increases of up to 50 percent are feasible.

Klaus-Dieter Lehmann

The Book in the Electronic Age

Excerpts from: “Old Books Between The Shredder And Conservation,” The Book Collector, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Winter 1992), by Dr. Franz Georg Kaltwasser, Director of the Bavarian State Library (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek), retired.

We are faced with a confusing situation. The end of the age of the book has been heralded since the 1960s. Old books have disappeared from view and become obsolete books. Yet, all of a sudden, various, contradictory fears are emerging: fear of the book mountains which have been growing in our libraries since those same 1960s, but also fear of the swift decay of many books which are now considered important. And, to cap it all, we have lately been thinking about the gaps which have always been present in our antiquarian collections and which are becoming more and more noticeable. Each of these focal points or fears has its own champion to present its case, with little regard for the others. What I find lacking is an overall view from scholars and librarians on the subject, that is, the book in the electronic age. I cannot offer a conclusive view myself, but I hope that my comments may help us to develop in future some sort of concept which will draw together the various aspects.

The Destruction of Books

It may be useful to remind ourselves that books as information carriers were always subject to natural and forcible destruction. Natural deterioration is largely dependent on the material used. Inscriptions on stone or clay are highly durable if kept in desert sand, in contrast to papyri which have only been preserved under the conditions most favorable to them, that is, in mummies. In comparison, medieval parchment codices in their wooden covers seem made for eternity. Machine-produced paper, on the other hand, bears the seeds of destruction within itself. To these internal dangers must be added the external ones which we all know: damp, heat, damage in transit, environmental pollution, vermin, fire, earthquakes and other devastating catastrophes. Use itself can damage books, if too careless or casual, at the reader’s desk or the photocopier.

We should, however, realize that the dangers which threatened, and still threaten books and their intellectual content with destruction were probably less severe, and still are, than those which threaten the modern information society by means of new technology. Each technology has its specific disadvantages. We are fascinated by the advantages of electronic data processing. Its dangers must be recognized in time for us to enjoy its benefits. The printed and duplicated book has the advantage–however much the individual copy may be at risk–that on the whole, not all copies can be destroyed, so that thought, once published, cannot be totally suppressed. We can thank the book for that. However, we must be wary of the possibilities of being deprived of information by means of the new technologies.

This is not part of my theme, but I believe that, when we speak of the destruction and preservation of books, we must be aware that we are, at the same time, entering a further dimension of information provision, the development of which will clearly influence our relationship with the book. We have only to think what it would be like if libraries only sold information and were no longer able to keep it themselves, because data carriers–such as CD ROM disks–could only be hired. Libraries would then become a mere agency, intermediary ‘bookshops’.

Preservation of Existing Books

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the Kommission für Bestandserhaltung (Commission for Collection Conservation) of the Deutsches Bibliotheksinstitut has prepared a statistical survey of damage. This shows that of about 152 million volumes in research libraries, 40 million volumes (or 26 percent) are already discolored and require urgent conservation treatment to strengthen the paper by deacidification, and that 18 million volumes (or 12 percent) are already so brittle that they can no longer be saved even by mass conservation processes.1 The scale of damage is not only due to the acid content of the paper, but also to environmental conditions, i.e., climate in general and in particular in our storage depots, and also, of course, intensity of use.

We must ask ourselves what methods of preservation should be used. We must differentiate between preservation of the original and transfer to a secondary medium, e.g., film or an electronic medium. With older books, where the paper is not machine-produced, we will probably restore the original. Filming in this case is intended to protect the original from too intensive use and loss (e.g., through external loan). For books with acid-retaining paper of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries three methods of preservation are possible: mass deacidification, filming and, in future, probably machine-readable digitizing (full text storage).

Thankfully in Germany we have become aware of the seriousness of the problem–the will to act is there and, it is to be hoped, the political motivation. The first result of such action is the study carried out by the Batelle-Institut in Frankfurt am Main, on behalf of the Deutsche Bibliothek and with funds from the Bundesminister für Forschung und Technologie (Federal Minister for Research and Technology), on the mass preservation of archives and libraries.2 This study examines existing procedures of mass deacidification and the resultant problems.

To keep our options open for the future it has been decided that disintegrating books should be stored on high-resolution black-and-white microfilm. This in itself guarantees a long life, but it can also form the basis of later digitalization for electronic storage. At the same time the production of microfiches for user purposes is no problem. The agony of choice is replaced by an open strategy, behind which lies the idea that old texts which need to be filmed due to paper decay can also be made available in the future for possible electronic information transmission.3


Common to all the deliberations mentioned is the fact that we would not have thought it possible a few years ago that we would be concerned with older books on the shelves of our libraries, with the content of the library–such things had in recent years faded into the background in the face of more fashionable problems. The points of view are very different. Some fear overloading, others bemoan the gaps, others see the decay of what is already there, and what is more, the seeds of destruction that already lie within the books waiting to be acquired. Some want to clear away what is superfluous, others want to fill the gaps, others want to preserve what is decaying. I said at the beginning that I did not intend to reduce these conflicting viewpoints to a common denominator; but we must look for such a common denomination. We must clarify if possible to what extent books are decaying and which are to be saved, if indeed they cannot all be saved. Finally we must take note of the all-important role of the great research libraries which are crucial to the survival of our culture.


1. Ulla Usemann-Keller, ‘Bestandsschäden in deutschen Bibliotheken, Untersuchung von 0.01 Prozent der Bestände ausgewählter Bibliotheken der Bundesrepublik durch das Deutsche Bibliotheksinstitut’, ZfBB 36 (1989), pp. 109-23.

2. Massenkonserviergung für Archive und Bibliotheken…Hrsg. von Kurt Nowak (Frankfurt/Main, 1989) (ZfBB, Sonderheft 49).

3. Henry W. Riecken, ‘The agony of choice. Strategies for preservation and scholarship’. In : The Commission on Preservation and Access. Annual Report (1 July 1990-30 June 1991), pp. 7-13.

Commission on Preservation and Access
1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 740
Washington, DC 20036-2217
(202) 939-3400 Fax: (202) 939-3407

The Commission on Preservation and Access was established in 1986 to foster and support collaboration among libraries and allied organizations in order to ensure the preservation of the published and documentary record in all formats and to provide enhanced access to scholarly information.

The Newsletter reports on cooperative national and international preservation activities and is written primarily for university administrators and faculty, library and archives administrators, preservation specialists and administrators, and representatives of consortia, governmental bodies, and other groups sharing in the Commission’s goals. The Newsletter is not copyrighted; its duplication and distribution are encouraged.

Patricia Battin–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor
Sonny Koerner – Managing Editor

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